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What to do if you didn’t get that promotion or pay rise?

It’s the start of a new financial year and, as is often the case at this time, we’ve been receiving calls from lawyers who are disappointed about not getting that promotion or pay rise they were hoping for.   

If you still have to do your annual review (we know some get delayed and some firms don’t do them right on EOFY), you can check out our blog here to help prepare for your review.  

Post Review Reflection 

As we discussed in our article about salary/performance reviews linked above, if your review doesn’t go as hoped, there are things you can raise at the end of the review or afterwards to hopefully ‘reset’ the goal posts and set you on a path to that promotion or pay rise you were seeking. 

Not getting what you had hoped for can be a knock to your confidence, make you feel under-appreciated or even angry!  Let those feelings out with your partner at home, friends and family but hold off on venting too much at work. Try to see this as an opportunity to reset your path and don’t get too defensive. The important thing is to keep your focus on your goals and maintain a level of professionalism at work. 

Once you have handled the disappointment, try to look critically at yourself, the firm, the team and your individual circumstances. Some questions worth exploring are: 

  • Was your request reasonable? It can pay to do some research on salary levels for your level and where they have moved in the last 12 months. (However, be careful comparing yourself to others because everyone’s personal circumstances are unique.) 
  • Did you achieve all of your KPIs or, on the flipside, have the goalposts been moved? Are you clear on what is/was expected of you? 
  • Are you truly interested in the work you are doing? Could your performance reflect your lack of passion for the work? 
  • Have you done things that were not captured in your review or recognised by your Partner?  
  • Is the structure of your team such that there is a ceiling for you (e.g. already too many Senior Associates)?  
  • Is there enough work in the team for you to achieve your billables?  
  • Are you getting the support and mentoring you need to improve in your role? 
  • Are there inherent issues in your workplace? (E.g. personality clashes, favouristism, bullying or clash of work style) 

Sometimes it may also be worth getting feedback from your Senior Associate or your mentor (if you have one). They may also help you see through the initial disappointment and help to plan your approach from here.  However, if you are going to talk to people within your team, remember to maintain your professionalism and resist the urge to complain too much! 

Next steps 

The next steps to take should be based on your reflection and your answers to the questions above. The key question to help guide your next steps boils down to whether you think there is a problem with the way your review was conducted or, more fundamentally, the team you are in, or whether the reasons you didn’t get what you were hoping for are actually well-founded.  This can involve quite a bit of introspection.  If you don’t have a mentor, or trusted Senior Associate, and are having trouble working this out yourself, a good legal recruiter can help you ‘sanity test’ where you’re at. 

Request feedback and set new goals 

If you have decided the outcome of your review was in fact well-founded, or you can see opportunity to work through issues that were identified, your next step should be to request further feedback and/or ask for further support (e.g. mentoring) where you feel you need it.   

This should assist in resetting your KPIs and goals and also making it clear to your supervising Partner that you are taking a mature approach. It is important that you and your Partner are on the same page and share the same expectations, otherwise you will have the same problems in 12 months’ time. 

It’s not me, it’s you! 

If after reflection or consultation with others, you can see that the problem stems from your Partner, the team structure, or the work (or, if your request for further feedback/support doesn’t work out), then it is time to look at moving firm.  However, that is not something we suggest you do in haste or before you have completed your reflection. That time reflecting may very well help guide you in terms of what you are looking for next. 

Once you have had that time to reflect, get in touch with a good legal recruiter so that you can use this as a career opportunity to make a move that will improve your career trajectory and get you on the path to achieving your career goals rather than another year of disappointment. 

What to do next? 

If you need some guidance or you’ve reflected and decided the only answer is to move firm, get in touch and we’ll happily have a chat through your unique situation and help you set up a career plan to better position you to have a positive career review next year!